Interview with SQL Server Master Trainer Scott Whigham, Owner of LearnSQLServer.com
What are some of the biggest advantages of learning by video over other methods, such as reading a book or taking a class?
It may surprise you, but I think that taking a training class is by far the best method when it comes to learning a new topic. In a class, I can ask questions and watch the demos. I’m a very visual learner, so when I can see the demo and hear the instructor, I remember it better. So why don’t we just take a class every time we need to learn a new concept? $2000-per-class is too steep.
As for books, they are an excellent way to learn and I think they’re a great companion to classroom training and video training. The only downside to a book is that you lose out of the audio/visual aspects; not everyone learns well by just reading a book.
The video tutorials that we offer sort of cover the best of both worlds. “Live” classes aren’t always available or your company won’t cover the cost. What if there are no classes scheduled in your city/country during the project’s timeframe? Traditionally, you’ve had to turn to buying books and doing self-learning. Our videobooks cost the same as a book – usually $30-$40 for a subscription – and you can immediately download every video on the whole site.
Most importantly, a videobook gives you the audio/visual elements that so many creative-type people require to learn effectively. You’re getting training from people who are not only true Subject Matter Experts, but who are also expert trainers. And we have one thing that you can never do in a training class – you can rewind and re-watch the video as much as you need to!
How any hours of training does the website offer? How long does a typical videobook lesson last?
We think of our videobooks as a “living book”; i.e., today there are over 25 hours of training on LearnSqlServer.com. 25 hours of videos equates roughly to about a five-day class. By the end of the year we’ll be closer to 40 hours of training. By the end of 2007, it will be well over 70 hours of video training. That’s almost three weeks of classroom training time for only $30-$40.
As for the typical videobook lesson, I’d say that most of them are usually 8-10 minutes. Some are five minutes while others are 25 minutes, but the bulk of the topics are 8-10 minutes. They are what we call “task-based videos”. Each video is on a particular topic (“JOINs and UNIONs – How Do I Know When to Use a JOIN or a UNION?” for example) and it takes about as long as it would in a class. The best thing that your readers can do is to take a look at the list of videos on the site and then click around. You can see the time of each video, the skill level, the version(s) of SQL Server, etc. Just go to http://www.learnsqlserver.com/VideoTutorials/ and see for yourself.
Is there any special hardware or software required to play videobooks?
No. We’ve had customers play them on their Ipods, Creative Zens, and people playing them on Windows Media Player, just to name a few. Anything that plays AVI videos will play our software. The only thing you might need is the TSCC codec if you’re watching it on your PC, but it’s free and we include instructions with each video.
Most people just watch them on their computer in Windows Media Player.
Are the videobooks for novice DBAs, experienced DBAs, etc?
We run the gamut. We offer our videos on a “scale” of 100-500 with 100-level videos being for novices and 500-level being for gurus. We try to have a wide variety out there with some for everyone.
We tailor the website content to bring in more the novice and intermediate users since the gurus don’t often need the training. We include the guru-level videos because we want to take the novice and, within “x” number of months, have them graduate to watching the guru-level videos. They’ll be the hero back at the office because they watched a 7-minute video on how sp_change_users_login works and can explain it to their DBA.
You can browse the videos by skill level as well: http://www.learnsqlserver.com/VideoTutorials/VideosBySkillLevel.aspx
More specifically, can you tell us about some of the videos you offer?
I just went up to our Free Videos page (http://www.learnsqlserver.com/FreeVideos) and picked a few to talk about. Right now, one of the freebies we have is a 17-minute video titled “COLLATE and How Queries and Table Data Work with Case-Sensitive and Accent-Sensitive Data”. This is an excellent discussion of how SQL Server uses collations and how the ORDER BY and WHERE clauses work with string data. Most people don’t know whether SQL Server sorts upper-case first and then lower-case in an ORDER BY, for example. This video talks about that and things like collations, character sets/code pages and/or working with accents and case-sensitivity.
Another one that we have up there right now is titled, “SQL Server 2005 Services and Service Accounts – What They Do and What’s New.” It’s a perfect intro to SQL Server 2005 for someone coming from SQL Server 7.0/2000 because you have a few new accounts added and a few new services. It’s almost 15 minutes and includes good examples of what happens when you turn on/off the SQL Browser service, for example.